Finding Affordable Retirement in the Country of Panama

Where to rtire? Any time your research interesting places to retire, especially outside the US, Panama always comes up high on the list. You can do the research so let me give you a few brief highlights to wet your appetite.

One of the first things to look for when considering and international retirement destination is how the county treats Americans. Panama is a good friend of the US and for the most part the population is warm and inviting towards people coming in from the USA. There is less red-tape moving to Panama and there are excellent services available to help you make the transition.

Panama requires no special authorizations, permits or prior registration for foreign investors. The Investment Stability Law, passed in 1998, protects foreign investors from any change in tax, customs, municipal and labor rules for a period of 10 years after an investment is registered.

Panama is a Democratic country. It’s stable and while they do not have an army or any other form of traditional military, you can rest knowing that the United States guarantees the territorial integrity of the nation. There is less crime in Panama then most international destinations. Local authorities pretty much let you mind your own business with very little intrusion into day to day life.

Perhaps one of the most important things for retirees to consider is that Panama offers outstanding health care. Most doctors are trained in the US and there is no shortage of modern state-of-the-art medical equipment there. I read recently where John Hopkins hospital has opened a facility there. That alone should tell you a whole lot about Panama’s world-class medical facilities.

If you don’t know a lot about Panama you are probably aware that it is an International center for finance. And, the US Dollar is the currency used in Panama. One of the largest number of banks in the world can be found in Panama City. When you live there, residents pay no taxes on foreign earned income. That is certainly one of the big draws for this fantastic country. Plus, newcomers who buy or build a new house in Panama won’t owe any property taxes for 20 years. Because the U.S. dollar is legal tender in Panama, it strengthens the economy and protects it from global shocks. Example: In 1998,Panama became one of the healthiest economies in Latin America during the Asian monetary crisis.


Panama’s Has it All!

One favorable selling point for Panama is their climate. It is temperate, mild and is a very beautiful country overall. If you are looking for pristine beaches, mountains, exotic plants, birds and animals, you will love Panama. It really has it all. Some other things you may want to know is that the country has more amenities then other traditional retirement destinations such as Mexico or Costa Rica. The coffee is said to be the best in the world.

It may be comforting to know that when you drive a car in Panama, the steering wheel is on the left and you drive on the right side of the roads. Also, appliances used in the US work just fine in Panama. No special electrical adapters are required.

There are other incentives for you to spend time there, invest there … or retire there. For example: tourism investments have a 20-year exemption from import duties, fees for construction materials and equipment, and income, real estate and other taxes. Panama has one of the lowest costs of living in all Central and South America: A U.S.-style home can be built for about $40 per square foot; unskilled labor costs $6.40 per day; a full-time live-in maid costs $120 to $160 a month; a beer at a bar costs 35 cents; a cup of coffee, 30 cents; a haircut and shave can cost as little as $2; an afternoon at a beauty salon is $8.

Electricity is about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour; water bills are $18 per year; telephone service costs roughly $30 a month; Internet access is $14 a month; wireless is available for a bit more; cellular-telephone service costs about $30 a month plus a per-minute charge of around 22 cents; and cable TV will cost you about $30 a month. Have you started dreaming yet? Wow! Now I’m really getting excited!

Panama has an outstanding benefit program for retirees making it one of the best places to retire. The Pensionado program is available to anyone with a monthly pension of at least $1000 ($750 with $100,000 of real estate).  See the many financial benefits of moving to Panama here.

Once you become a resident “pensioner” of Panama under the Tourist Pensionado Visa, you are eligible for the most appealing program of benefits for retirees available anywhere in the world right now.

The rules for becoming a “pensioner” and qualifying for this visa program in Panama are much different then what you expect and the differences are all in your favor.

In fact, anyone over the age of 18 may apply and can qualify as a pensionado in Panama. All you need is a guaranteed pension income of $500 per month ($600 for a couple). It must be a pension from a government agency (e.g. Social Security, disability, armed forces, etc.) or a defined-benefit pension from a private company. An immediate, fixed annuity is one of the few things that doesn’t qualify.

As a qualified pensioner in Panama, you would be entitled to all of the following benefits:

* 50% off closing costs for home loans and more

* 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)

* 10% off prescription medicines

* 20% off doctors’ consultations

* 15% off dental and eye exams

* 25% off restaurant meals–15% off at fast-food restaurants

* 20% off professional and technical services

* 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events, etc.)

* 30% off bus, boat, and train fares

* 25% off airline tickets

* 50% off hotel stays Monday through Thursday, 30% off Friday through Sunday

Now you can understand why Panama is one of the best places in the world for retirees today, combining a low cost of living, near-perfect weather and one of the world’s best discount programs for retirees, with up to 50% off everything from public transport to movies, mortgage rates, doctor’s visits, electricity, restaurants and airfares.

Panama cost less than the US or Europe so the lower cost of living means your retirement money will stretch further there. Sounds like a serious place to consider if you are willing to venture living in another country.

Always keep in mind that while Panama is easily accessible to the U.S., it’s still a foreign country. There are certain cultural differences to consider where to retire. You can either embrace and accept them . . . or try to ignore and become very unhappy living there.

If we have perked your interest, I highly recommend you visit Panama before ever deciding to move there. While it is expected you will love the country, it is not for everyone. Make sure you are comfortable being that far away from family and friends unless of course you can bring them with you.

Time moves at a more leisurely pace in Panama. People do things at there own pace and on there own time schedule. If you are impatient and one who always expects for things to be done right now, Panama is probably going to drive you nuts. On the other hand if you are ready for a more laid back lifestyle, Panama may be the perfect place for you.

Where to retire? Good luck on your search for friendly International Destinations.

Living for Retirement

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